Help! A Woman Was Murdered in the House We Want to Buy.

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 8 2013 7:12 AM

Three Beds, Two Baths, One Body

We’ve found the perfect house. Only problem: a woman was murdered there.

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Dear Prudence,
My biological father left my brother and me when we were 5 and 4 years old respectively. He terminated his parental rights to us and had no part in our lives. Six years ago he reached out to my brother when he turned 21. My brother never responded. Then three years ago he reached out to me via Facebook asking for the opportunity to develop a relationship. I allowed him to visit me and have sporadically responded to text messages since the initial "reunion." He recently sent me a gift. There was a birthday card, a camera, and a cashier's check for more than $10,000 dollars inside. The note attached said that this was my money now and that he'd held onto it for longer than he liked. Can I keep the money? If I do keep it, how do I go about finding out what kind of strings might be attached? How do I determine if there is money for my brother? If there is none for him, is it unethical for me not to give my brother half of the check since after all he is half of the pair of children that were abandoned?

—Fatherless

Dear Fatherless,
The average cost for raising a middle-class child is more than $200,000, so at $10,000 your father got off cheap. That was quite a cryptic note he included, but he makes it sound as if he was responsible for funds that were supposed to be for his children. So he has finally made good, sort of. But let’s say it’s purely guilt money; well, he should feel guilty since he repudiated one of life’s most fundamental obligations. I don’t see that there are any strings attached to this money. You have established a desultory relationship with him and if that’s all you’re comfortable with, cashing the check doesn’t change that. But you certainly should thank your father for the gifts and raise the question you’ve asked here about your brother. This requires either phone or face-to-face conversation. When you talk, tell him how much you appreciate his gesture and that you will use the money well. But then ask for clarification about the note. Were there funds for the two of you? If so, is he also going to pass them on to your brother? Your father might balk at giving money to a grown child who has refused to engage him, but if your brother is entitled to the money suggest that he should get it regardless of the emotions. But if there isn’t going to be any cash for your brother, it is totally up to you to decide what you do with your haul. However, since you note you and your brother both suffered equally from your father’s abandonment, splitting this windfall with him might keep you from feeling you are perpetuating your father’s psychic debt.

—Prudie

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Dear Prudence,
I work for a small, family-run business and all the employees are very close. Almost no one brings their lunch and we don't make coffee in the office. Whenever someone leaves to get coffee, a drink, or snacks from the shops nearby, they ask if anyone wants anything and inevitably that person ends up paying for all the drinks. The next day, it is someone different and we all just figure that what goes around comes around. Lately, however, I have been strapped for cash and have been buying only for myself. This afternoon, when a co-worker found out I was going to a food truck he gave me money to buy him something, and when I came back everyone was upset that I hadn't offered to pick something up for them. What do I do to make sure I am immediately reimbursed, in cash, for purchases, and not in Gatorade and Fritos down the line?

—Broke

Dear Broke,
This system sounds highly annoying if every trip to get a bag of chips turns you into a caterer. But shifting office culture is a difficult thing and you likely can’t do it alone. So your best hope is to make a rueful announcement that you’re on a debt reduction plan and you’re cutting back on all purchases. That means for the time being you’re going to have to bring your lunch and drinks, and pointedly decline when people say, “Can I get you anything?” If you’re desperate for a caffeine fix, just say you’re going out for a walk and gulp your drink outside on the sly. And maybe you can float the idea to the powers that be that efficiency would be vastly increased with the arrival of a coffeemaker.

—Prudie

More Dear Prudence Columns

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Daddy Dearest: My husband is wonderful, but he rages at our kids. How can I quell his anger?” Posted April 12, 2012.
Loss and Forbidden Love: My stepdaughter hit on me after my wife’s death. What should I do?” Posted April 5, 2012.
Not So Proud Papa: Our son is an unmotivated lunkhead. How can we light a fire under him?” Posted March 29, 2012.

More Dear Prudence Chat Transcripts

Double Helping of Hate: In a live chat, Prudie advises a mother hit by an anti-adoption remark—that's also implicitly racist.” Posted April 30, 2012.
For No Eyes Only: In a live chat, Prudie advises the sister of an underage girl making sex tapes with her boyfriend.” Posted April 23, 2012.
My Daughter To Be My Daughter-in-Law?: In a live chat, Dear Prudence offers advice on a surprising dating arrangement, birthmark removal, and mistresses at funerals.” Posted April 16, 2012.
Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone: In a live chat, Dear Prudence advises a man who cheated and is so afraid his wife will leave that he stalks her every move.” Posted April 9, 2012.